What Happens When You Are Accidentally Given Music MP3s By Music Labels Or Services?

from the questions,-questions dept

For a while it’s been something of an open secret that music services like Pandora get around buffering problems by actually downloading MP3s to a temporary folder on your hard drive, and then streaming it locally. There are a few software products that will help you save (and rename) those files. Ed Felten has written that a new Billy Joel single is being promoted by SonyBMG using a similar system. It looks like it’s streaming to your computer, but the reality is that it first downloads a full, high-quality, MP3 to your computer. So, the open question is what’s the legality of saving that file? There are a few issues here. First of all, all of the RIAA lawsuits are about uploading, not downloading files. So as long as you’re not sharing the file later, chances are, you’re not going to get sued at all. But, the RIAA and others still could consider it to be copyright infringement by gaining “unauthorized access” to the file. Unfortunately, it seems that such a claim would be tough to support, since the file was place on your hard drive on purpose — it’s just that the service delivering it hoped you wouldn’t notice it and save it. In the end, though, this helps highlight some of the reasons why traditional copyright law doesn’t make much sense in a digital age. In order to get a better quality streaming audio, the best way to do it is to load that MP3 onto your computer — but doing so may technically be considered copyright infringement in some manner. One more reason why it’s about time people started rethinking copyright laws.

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Comments on “What Happens When You Are Accidentally Given Music MP3s By Music Labels Or Services?”

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Strings says:

Stupid RIAA

The logistics of it don’t seem to be doing anything illegal. Whoever put it there would be the one that should get sued, but because this is America the RIAA will most likely find some ridculous way of finding the person holding a copy of the music liable. No secret that I can just tell my computer to show all the hidden files in the temporary internet folder and rename it without any other help.

Jeffrey (user link) says:

That’s pretty cool, I’ll have to check it out next time I stream something!

The RIAA’s efforts against file sharing are soon going to be a thing of the past with all of these new softwares that offer ENCRYPTED exchanges. Look at GigaTribe for instance ( http://www.gigatribe.com ), their free software lets users exchange entire folders of albums in a few easy clicks, and not even the ISPs can identify what’s being exchanged.

The music model is changing rapidly, and consumers and small/medium artists are going to be the winners.

GillBates says:

The doctrine of laches states that a plaintiff may not recover damages in cases where they failed to take actions which mitigated the damages. For example, if the RIAA downloads a file to your computer, they can’t hold you responsible for copyright infringement because they could have mitigated the damages simply by streaming it from the remote computer, which, from the user’s perspective, is what was happening. In fact, I’d argue that downloading the file to your computer, while making it appear to be streaming, is accessing a protected a computer system beyond the permissions given it – a federal felony.

sToOpId says:


If I were to ever use that service, and save the files in my own computer for my own use, and I was ever sued… I would just have my attorney build a case that points the finger at the provider. They placed the files on my computer and therefor committed copyright infringement. It is not like I actively downloaded the file and then uploaded it to a torrent tracker or whatever.

No sane judge could find against that logically. Now, when money changes hands on the back end of the deal, judges do things logic can never explain.

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